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Blog Archive


Of Course I Still Love You, Falcon: New SpaceX Ship Ready to Catch Rockets

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/06/25 02:13 CDT | 3 comments

SpaceX is gearing up for its seventh paid cargo run to the International Space Station, and the third attempt to catch the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the ocean.

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Inclusive Astronomy Conference

Posted by Meredith Rawls on 2015/06/25 09:00 CDT | 1 comments

Last week, more than 150 astronomers gathered in Nashville for a conference to examine fundamental questions in our field: Who gets to practice astronomy? How can we make astronomy more inclusive?

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What to expect when you're expecting a flyby: Planning your July around New Horizons' Pluto Pictures (version 2)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/24 07:57 CDT | 22 comments

Three months ago, I posted an article explaining what to expect during the flyby. This is a revised version of the same post, with some errors corrected, the expected sizes of Nix and Hydra updated, and times of press briefings added.

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New Horizons update: Resolving features on Charon and seeing in color

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/23 11:02 CDT | 13 comments

Only about three weeks remain until the flyby — it's getting really close! I almost don't want the anticipation to end. New Horizons is now getting color images and is seeing features on Charon. Deep searches have yielded no new moons.

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Preparing America’s Spaceport for NASA’s New Rocket

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/06/22 04:04 CDT | 1 comments

At Kennedy Space Center, NASA's ground systems program prepares for the first flight of the Space Launch System in 2018.

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Thank You, LightSail Trackers

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/06/19 01:19 CDT | 2 comments

A thank-you to all the space enthusiasts who helped track LightSail during its 25-day test mission.

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Transient hot spots on Venus: Best evidence yet for active volcanism

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/18 06:42 CDT | 3 comments

In a paper released in Geophysical Research Letters today, Eugene Shalygin and coauthors have announced the best evidence yet for current, active volcanism on Venus. The evidence comes from the Venus Monitoring Camera, which saw transient hot spots in four locations along a system of rifts near Venus' equator. They saw the hot spots in two distinct episodes in 2008 and 2009.

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Philae is awake! What's next for the comet lander's scientific mission?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/17 05:16 CDT | 5 comments

I woke up early Sunday morning to the dramatic news: Philae is back! With a few days to consider the telemetry, the Philae team is now talking about the science they hope to do. With comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko approaching perihelion in August, it's going to be an exciting ride.

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Pluto and Charon spin among the stars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/16 08:10 CDT | 7 comments

I've spent a happy couple of days playing with raw data downloaded from the New Horizons website, making animations of the dances of Pluto and Charon.

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Welcome home, AstroSamantha

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/15 09:41 CDT | 2 comments

Three astronauts have returned to Earth, and while I'm happy that they landed safely, I'm very sad that astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is not in space anymore to wish us "buona notte dallo spazio" with her lovely photos and piquant comments.

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LightSail Test Mission Ends with Fiery Reentry

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/06/15 02:09 CDT | 7 comments

The LightSail test mission is officially over. Following a 25-day stay in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft tumbled back into Earth’s atmosphere Sunday afternoon.

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Tonight I Glimpsed LightSail

Posted by Bill Nye on 2015/06/14 03:05 CDT | 7 comments

Tonight, for the first time, I glimpsed our spacecraft with my own eyes. It was just the faintest pinprick against the bright lights of the big city. But, there it was right on time and exactly per the coordinates.

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In Pictures: LightSail’s Final Days in Space

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/06/12 03:30 CDT | 7 comments

LightSail’s brief stay in orbit is almost over. Here are a few photos and videos of the spacecraft from observers around the world.

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Field Report from Mars: Sol 4039 - June 4, 2015
Two Week Period of Solar Conjunction Begins

Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2015/06/12 08:15 CDT

Larry Crumpler gives an update on the Opportunity rover and plans for its upcoming journey after solar conjunction.

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Telling Pluto’s Story, One Fragment at a Time

Posted by Mark Showalter on 2015/06/11 04:29 CDT | 2 comments

Mark Showalter explains how determining basic information about Pluto's small moons—Kerberos and Styx—is more complicated than initially thought.

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Pretty (Partial) Picture: LightSail Catches a Glimpse of Earth

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/06/10 10:00 CDT | 3 comments

With the team still trying to download an image from LightSail's second camera, Emily Lakdawalla processed a partial image from the first camera that contains a slice of Earth.

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Curiosity update, sols 978-1011: Into Marias Pass; ChemCam back in action; solar conjunction

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/10 07:26 CDT | 7 comments

It’s been an eventful few weeks for Curiosity on Mars. From sols 981 to 986, Curiosity’s human pilots tried and failed to drive the rover southward; but, retracing their steps to Logan's Run, they quickly found a way up and into a beautiful geological amphitheater named Marias Pass, where they will stay throughout Mars solar conjunction. They also returned ChemCam to normal operations.

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NASA Goes First Class for Europa

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/06/10 12:07 CDT | 9 comments

Over the last several years, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Applied Physics Laboratory have rethought the entire approach to exploring Europa. NASA now has a concept that's affordable.

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An enigmatic line across Pluto: Plutonian canali!?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/09 07:03 CDT | 17 comments

Pluto and Charon are growing larger in New Horizons' forward view, beginning to develop distinct personalities. A version of recent New Horizons photos processed by Björn Jónsson reveals an enigmatic dark line. Our maps of Pluto's surface are now as good as our maps of Mars and Venus, circa 1900!

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LightSail Test Mission Declared Success; First Image Complete

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/06/09 01:15 CDT | 22 comments

The Planetary Society’s LightSail test mission successfully completed its primary objective of deploying a solar sail in low-Earth orbit.

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